With the Omicron surge finally dying down and most COVID restrictions being stripped away, people across the U.S. have been planning for a largely virus-free spring and summer. After all, infections have fallen by more than 16 percent in the last week and hospitalizations are also down by more than 27 percent, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But COVID is anything but predictable, and we’ve been hit with surges over and over again for the last two years. If we do experience another wave, when do health officials believe it will hit? Read on to find out when one virus expert says we should expect the next COVID surge.
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While infections are still dropping in the country at the moment, we could see a trend reversal in the coming weeks. “I expect we’ll see a wave in the U.S. sooner than what most people expect,” Kristian Andersen, PhD, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, told The New York Times on March 19.
According to Andersen, the next COVID surge could hit the U.S. as soon as April, or shortly thereafter—either later in the spring or in the early summer. “Such a wave would be accompanied by rising hospitalizations and deaths,” he warned.
New COVID waves are already hitting other countries, particularly those in Western Europe. According to CNN, the United Kingdom started seeing cases and hospitalizations climb again just two weeks after the country dropped one of its last COVID restrictions—the isolation requirement for people testing positive. In the last week, the U.K. saw cases increase by 48 percent and hospitalizations rise by 17 percent.
Infections are now surging in more than half of the countries in the European Union (EU), per CNN. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, COVID cases have risen by 48 percent in the Netherlands and 20 percent in Germany in the last week.
“Without a doubt, opening up society and having people mingle indoors is clearly something that is a contributor, as well as overall waning immunity, which means we’ve really got to stay heads-up and keep our eye on the pattern here,” top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, told CNN. “So that’s the reason why we’re watching this very carefully.”
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Rising cases in other countries are likely foreshadowing what is going to happen here soon. After all, COVID cases have spiked in Europe a few weeks before they started rising in the U.S. five times in the last two years, USA Today notes. “We’re learning a lot about the next wave that’s going to happen in the U.S.,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, told the news outlet. “It’s going to happen. It’s unavoidable.”
And while it’s reportedly inevitable that the U.S. will experience another COVID surge soon, Topol said experts are not certain whether it’s going to be a dramatic undoing of the country’s progress or just a minor setback. “It’s going to be a surge of some kind, the magnitude of which is unclear,” he told USA Today.
The rising COVID cases in Europe can largely be attributed to the BA.2 variant, which is a new “stealth” subvariant of Omicron, CNBC reported. According to The New York Times, this subvariant is estimated to be 30 to 50 percent more transmissible than the original Omicron strain (BA.1). In the U.S., BA.2 already accounted for almost one-quarter of new virus infections in the last week.
And while others have confirmed that they cannot predict how bad another surge in the U.S. will get, William Hanage, PhD, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told USA Today that he can likely guess where in the country it will hit the hardest.
“The only thing I’m very prepared to predict is that places with large quantities of unboosted, unvaccinated older folks are going to have a more consequential experience with BA.2,” Hanage said.
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